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Fantastic Fest 2011: “Let the Bullets Fly,” reviewed

Fantastic Fest 2011: “Let the Bullets Fly,” reviewed (photo)

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“Let the Bullets Fly” is funny, exciting, and at 132 minutes, a half an hour too long. It’s like that guy you knew in college who told told really great stories but got so wrapped up in his own awesomeness as a storyteller that he never knew when to shut up. “Let the Bullets Fly” is a great little movie inside a weaker bigger movie.

It’s still a lot of fun. Almost every character in the film has more than one identity and there are multiple layers of deception going in every scene. Writer/director Jiang Wen stars as “Pocky” Zhang a legendary bandit in 1920s China pretending to be the Governor in order to rob from the rich and give to the guy pretending to be the Governor. He’s assisted by Tang (Ge You), the actual Governor whose train is hijacked and wrecked by Pocky in the film’s pre-credits sequence. When he’s found in the wreckage, Tang pretends to be the Governor’s assistant so Pocky won’t kill him. They both arrive in Goose Town, where they get into a turf war with local crime boss Master Huang (Chow Yun Fat), who uses body doubles to to confuse his enemies (Chow is clearly having the time of his life playing the two Huangs, one deadly serious the other a goofy bastard). Pocky and Huang both want control of Goose Town. That sparks an epic battle of wills and artillery. Lots and lots of artillery.

Wen does a nice job of balancing comedy, drama, and action, but the comic scenes are the best. Tang’s wife survives the train crash as well, but she doesn’t hide her identity like her husband. That means she has to keep playing the Governor’s wife for Pocky, even sleeping with him in order to keep up appearances. Tang, as you might imagine, is not pleased. Later, after Pocky and Tang have started to bond, the two share a heart-to-heart on a hillside. Pocky opens up and tells Tang about his past, and how he came to be such a notorious thief. Moved by his honesty, Tang begins to share his own history. “Stop talking,” Pocky interrupts. “I don’t care.” The film has some big emotional beats, but it never takes its tongue out of its proverbial cheek.

True to its title, “Let the Bullets Fly” is all about speed. Pocky and Tang banter back and forth like Russell and Grant in “His Girl Friday.” In the shootouts, the gangsters fire their guns so fast you’d swear they were shooting machine guns. Maybe that’s why “Bullets”‘ length feels so overbearing. Individual scenes chug along at a rat-a-tat pace but the movie as a whole runs out of steam around the 90 minute mark. There’s only so many gotcha plot twists a movie needs or an audience can take. Let the bullets fly, then at some point, let the bullets land.

“Let the Bullets Fly” is tentatively scheduled for an early 2012 release from Well Go USA. If you see it at Fantastic Fest, let us know what you think. Leave us a message in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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